Democrats’ strategy in the ongoing impeachment trial of President Donald Trump echoes the party’s effort in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018: insist on witnesses they failed to call at the appropriate time, in the hope that extending the inquisition will turn up evidence they have not yet found. And when Republicans insist on due process, make a political issue out of their refusal.
The strategy failed for Democrats in the Kavanaugh hearings, but they refused to learn the lesson.
Incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), that tactical genius who loudly denounced the partisan abuse of impeachment when President Bill Clinton had committed actual crimes, was overheard on a train in November loudly describing his plans to look for new witnesses to impeach Kavanaugh.
Mollie Hemingway, the brilliant conservative writer sitting nearby on the Amtrak, wrote that Nadler also planned to go “all-in” on the conspiracy theory that Russia colluded with Trump in the 2016 election,
Nadler even outlined the plan: use the House Intelligence Committee under Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) under the guise of holding Trump “accountable.” The question of “impeachment” would only come later.
If the House had really been interested in holding the Trump administration “accountable,” they could have subpoenaed former National Security Advisor John Bolton, as well as other witnesses and documents, at least three months ago, after the House voted to authorize its “impeachment inquiry.” The court fights that would have ensued would likely be over by now, or very near a conclusion. Democrats chose not to do it.
Instead, as in the Kavanaugh confirmation process, Democrats waited until the investigation was essentially over before they began demanding new witnesses.
The new Bolton “revelations,” as they are called — though no one knows what he actually wrote, since even the New York Times failed to quote him — are like the new Kavanaugh “accusers.” Now Democrats want to call new “witnesses” who never spoke up during the inquiry.
These calls have nothing to do with finding the truth.
Democrats could go to court to subpoena the Bolton manuscript itself; the legal battle would likely be shorter and simpler than a fight over executive privilege.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) rejected that idea, even as an interim measure, on Tuesday. They want a fight over Bolton. The goal is not to learn the facts, but to prolong the process.
There are good reasons emerging for Congress to compel Bolton to testify — in oversight, not impeachment. The American people deserve to know how much he was paid to write his book, by whom, and when he started it.
Because if there is anything the Framers wanted to prevent by making bribery impeachable, and by writing the Emoluments Clause, it was large sums of money undermining the leadership of the Republic.
In the meantime, Republicans should reject Democrat calls for more witnesses. They don’t want the truth; they just want to be able to say, after Trump is acquitted, that it was Republican partisanship that saved him.
A vote for new witnesses, after Democrats rejected every Republican request for new witnesses in the House, would legitimize an unprecedented abuse of power, and guarantee that Kavanaugh 2.0 would not be the last.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.